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UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
11 July 2006

ANGOLA: Arguing over Cabindan peace talks

JOHANNESBURG, 11 Jul 2006 (IRIN) - Angola's fractious Cabinda separatist movement has split again - this time about whether peace talks are actually taking place and the 30-year rebellion is over.

The main members of the Cabinda Forum for Dialogue (FDC) have "not recognised the peace accord negotiated by Antonio Bento Bembe, [a Front for the Liberation of Cabinda (FLEC) leader] and denounce him as head of the forum", Raul Danda, a member of the FDC and head of a Cabindan human rights NGO, told IRIN.

The FDC is the representative body of the oil-rich enclave's secessionist movements and includes civil society groups, Catholic Church representatives and FLEC.

According to Bembe, FLEC had agreed to lay down their arms in favour of dialogue and the prospect of gaining special autonomous status from the Angolan government.

But an FDC statement denounced Bembe for allegedly negotiating with the Angolan government "for personal reasons". He "cannot continue to be part of the FDC - he has lost the confidence of the people he claims to represent. It would not be right for the forum to have a president that is so obviously positioned on the opposing side".

Danda maintained that FLEC's president, N'Zita Tiago, was unaware of an agreement with Luanda and said Bembe had no authority to negotiate on behalf of FLEC. "Mr Tiago is the only one who could get the soldiers to stop fighting, and even the soldiers themselves have said they do not recognise the agreement," he said.

The Angolan government has claimed to be in discussion with Cabinda's secessionist movements since March, when the Angolan armed forces chief of staff, General Agostinho Nelumba, announced that "the government has opened a dialogue and, in the near future, the problem will be resolved".

The peace deal on offer demands recognition of Angola as a "unitary and indivisible state", with Cabinda being granted "special administrative status" in return.

But according to Sarah Wykes, senior campaigner for the environmental lobby group, Global Witness, it is still very unclear what this "'special status' means, and we will have to wait and see how much credibility this [Bembe-led] negotiating group actually has."

FDC members fear the special status will apply to only a few people, who would be granted lucrative administrative positions, Danda said. "We want special status for all Cabindans, and we will accept nothing less than autonomy."

Wykes pointed out that "there has long been an attempt to impose a military solution in Cabinda - there are troops all over the place."

Cabinda, which produces 60 percent of Angola's oil and is home to some 400,000 people, now also accommodates between 30,000 and 40,000 troops of the Angolan Armed Forces (FAA). "That's one soldier for every 10 people," Danda commented.

He said the FAA had stepped up their military activities in Cabinda since 6 June, allegedly under the leadership of General Uala - famous in Angola for killing UNITA rebel leader Jonas Savimbi, which brought the country's 27-year civil war to a close. IRIN was unable to get comment from the Angolan authorities.

FLEC's fighters are mainly holed up in the forests of Cabinda's northeastern regions.

Cabinda, a sliver of land sandwiched between Congo Brazzaville and the Democratic Republic of Congo, is internationally recognised as part of Angola, but Luanda's control has been resisted by the FLEC and its various offshoots since independence in 1975.


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